Me and My Fear
Flying Eye Books
Following on from her Amnesty Honour book The Journey, Francesca Sanna has created another beautiful, very topical companion picture book, Me and My Fear, with an integration theme. Herein she explores fear from the viewpoint of a little girl, a recent arrival from another part of the world.
Fear takes on a persona that accompanies the girl narrator all the time, everywhere she goes, whatever she does. It has stayed beside her, keeping her safe from harm.
Since she’s arrived in this new country though, Fear has just kept on getting bigger and bigger. So big that it prevents her from going out to explore her new neighbourhood.
Hating her new school, Fear also makes the narrator dread going at all and then find fault with things once she’s there. It isolates her; it, as much as the language difference, is a barrier to understanding.
Observant readers will notice that all the time the girl wrestles with her fear at school, there’s a little boy watching.
Once back home it’s all consuming; its dreams so loud they prevent the narrator sleeping.
Her loneliness increases: in short, Fear overwhelms and engulfs her completely.
Then one day in class, something happens to initiate a change.
In addition the narrator discovers that she isn’t the only person with a secret fear: her new companion is also afflicted.
Thereafter, both children’s fears start to shrink and in tandem, the girl and boy’s reassuring awareness that pretty well everyone is fearful about something …
Friendship grows and with it a sense of belonging.
Digitally painted illustrations in blue, pink and ochre hues soften the feelings of the characters without dampening its powerful impact; the curvaceousness of Fear makes it all the more enveloping in this memorable tale that shows how friendship, connectedness and empathy can overcome even the most overwhelming negative emotions.
Having spent almost all my teaching career working in and with schools in the London Borough of Hounslow where many asylum seekers and refugees arrive in the schools, often traumatised and overwhelmed with all things other, and watching how well they seemed to become a part of the community, this book is a stark reminder of what they must have been going through (and many still are) when they arrived from such war-torn places as Somalia, The Sudan, Afghanisthan, Sierra Leone, Iran, Bosnia, and now, Syria.
It needs to be in every primary school in the country and every other setting that has dealings with children of families who have experienced displacement trauma.